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In my previous blog, Corporate Sustainability Training: Practical Employee Education, I discussed how sustainability education for the business consumer can be broken into two categories; Practical and Academic. The Practical article focused on courses that tackle smaller and more specific topics and focus on specifics to implement sustainability initiatives. This article will look at more Academic courses that often prepare students for a career in sustainability

SUSTAINABILITY AS A PROFESSION

If you are interested in sustainability as a profession, your knowledge and passion are definitely needed!  Interest in climate correction, ESG, and social impact is taking off in a way that I’ve never witnessed in my decades in the field. It’s an exciting time! I hope that the advice on education options below will help give you some direction. I also highly recommend this article, Finding a Sustainability Career in Business. It walks you through multiple types of roles available in the following four sectors:

  • Corporate Sustainability
  • Consulting
  • Government and Non-profit
  • Entrepreneurship

ACADEMIC SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION

These courses tackle larger subjects that require a more comprehensive approach and are geared toward those who want a sustainability career.  Successful completion of the work results in a generalist degree or sustainability certificate.  

Degree programs have a more broad curriculum, teaching the student how to think so they can be effective in a wide range of job types and progress to leadership positions. 

Sustainability certificates indicate specialized knowledge in a narrow topic. They are for subject matter expertise in a particular system, skill, or knowledge set. Most corporate sustainability courses, which result in a degree or certificate, are taught by colleges and universities or by companies that team with them to give classes online.  

UNIVERSITY SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAMS

  • An early adopter, Maastricht University in the Netherlands was inspired by the Brundtland Commission Report in 1987 and has been researching Sustainability Science, Integrated Assessment and Policy since 1992. They founded their International Centre for Integrated Assessment and Sustainable development (ICIS) in 1998 and now have their Maastricht Sustainability Institute (MSI) housed within the School of Business and Economics.
  • In the US, Pinchot University, founded in 2002 as the Bainbridge Graduate Institute,  was the first school to offer an MBA in Sustainable Business. In August 2016, Pinchot University was acquired by Presidio Graduate School (PGS). PGS is the first and only independent graduate school dedicated entirely to educating people working for a more just and sustainable world. It offers MBA, MPA, Dual Degree, and Certificate programs in Sustainability.
  • Many Universities have undergraduate and graduate degrees in sustainability. Harvard, for instance, Harvard has a Master of Liberal Arts, Sustainability.  Harvard also has an online course that is part of their Business School, entitled Sustainable Business Strategy. It illustrates how businesses can thrive and grow while simultaneously solving some of the world’s biggest challenges—and how you, as an individual, can make a difference. A Certificate of Completion is awarded. 
  • For a first-class education at a lower cost, the  University of South Florida has an entire school dedicated to sustainability, the Patel College of Global Sustainability (PCGS). PCGS provides graduate degrees designed to prepare students to address complex regional, national, and global challenges related to sustainability.  It offers Masters of Science and Masters of Arts in Global Sustainability. It also offers 8 graduate certificate programs in
    • Climate Mitigation and Adaptation
    • Energy Sustainability
    • Food Sustainability & Security
    • Global Sustainability
    • Water Sustainability
    • Sustainable Business
    • Sustainable Tourism
    • Sustainable Transportation

ONLINE SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION PROVIDERS and UNIVERSITY PARTNERS

Several online education technology companies partner with Universities to provide a variety of certificates, degrees as well as general interest courses.  Here are some examples:

  • Started by Professor Anant Agarwal of MIT in 2012, edX now has more than 160 partners and has issued 1.4 million course certificates. Along with short courses and professional certificate programs, It offers several pathways to degrees: Micro Bachelor and Masters programs, and Masters degrees. In addition, It has an easy and robust search engine. 
    • edX currently has 27 sustainability degree programs and 277 sustainability courses.
  • Coursera partners with more than 200 leading universities and companies to bring flexible, affordable, job-relevant online learning to individuals and organizations worldwide. A quick search for “sustainability” had 199 results that can be sorted by language, level, duration, subject, skills, partner, and learning product. 
    • Coursera currently has 4 degrees with sustainability as part of the curriculum and at least 15 courses that grant a certificate.

SUSTAINABILITY CERTIFICATES AND DEGREES

Sustainability is a vast field that touches every aspect of our lives and business. Work in sustainability can be in many different areas, including architecture, engineering, economics and finance, science, policy, and business. For a career helping companies improve their corporate responsibility, business strategy, and management, your best bet is to get your education from the business school of a university.  Below are some degree types that will add value to your resume.

Popular degree types include:

  • MBA in Sustainability
  • MBA or MS in Environmental Management 
  • MBA in Sustainable Development

More generalist sustainability certificates are:

  • Environmental and/or Sustainability Management
  • Sustainable Business 
  • Sustainability Development

THE CORPORATE NEED FOR SUSTAINABILITY TRAINING and SUSTAINABILITY PROFESSIONALS

If your company is looking to pursue sustainability as a business strategy, you will need leadership to guide proactive policy and manage the programs.  Investing in new talent with degrees and supporting staff as they acquire more academic education will be a good investment.

And remember, the business case for sustainability is convincing. And when it comes to your staff, having them involved in your sustainability efforts results in improved employee engagement, morale,  and retention.

About the Author

Julia Craighill

FOUNDER & PRESIDENT
ENSIGHT

Julia Craighill is the founder and president of Ensight. She is a driven, award-winning sustainability expert committed to helping organizations build value through green strategies. With more than three decades of experience in architecture, construction and sustainability, she collaborates with her clients to align green goals with business goals. A frequent speaker and prolific author on issues of sustainability and resiliency, Julia is known for her solid, pragmatic guidance that helps organizations make the leap from good intentions to long-term, profitable performance. Since starting Ensight Consulting seven years ago, Julia has helped dozens of companies, from large multi-national corporations to a two-person yoga studio, reduce their environmental impact and demonstrate corporate responsibility.

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